On the happy occasion of our 68th Republic Day, I convey my heartiest greetings and best wishes to all our compatriots, friends and well-wishers in Kuwait. The Constitution of modern India, which came into force on 26 January 1950, laid strong foundations of a democratic and secular State. Over these years, the Constitution, amidst many challenges that our country faced, has remained steadfast in its fundamentals, while remaining flexible and vibrant to accommodate various changes which the people of India desired.
A vibrant democracy has been India’s most enduring identity ever since India adopted its Constitution that made it a democratic Republic with universal adult suffrage. India takes pride in being the largest democracy in the world. India is a pluralistic society, which is reflected in every aspect ─ whether it is political ideology, ethnicity, language, religion, cuisine or geography. In India, all major religions are adhered to and many languages spoken. India is truly a nation of “unity in diversity.”
India’s economy is presently undergoing massive structural transformation. India remains among the fastest growing large economy, with open investment climate. Under the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Government has taken various initiatives, including ease of doing business, transparency in governance, regulatory reforms, 'Make in India' campaign, ‘Digital India’ programme, ‘Start-up India’ programme, ‘Smart Cities’, ‘Model Villages’, ‘Swachh Bharat’ mission, introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST), opening of new sectors for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and enhanced caps for existing sectors.
The outcome of these initiatives is visible from India’s improved global rankings on diverse indicators. India’s rank has gone up in World Bank’s Doing Business Report. India is fast closing the gap between business practices in India and the best in the world. We are ranked third in the list of top prospective economies for 2016-18 in the World Investment Report 2016 released by UNCTAD. Our rank improved by 32 positions in World Economic Forum’s ‘Global Competitiveness Report 2015-16 and 2016-17’. We improved 16 places in ‘Global Innovation Index 2016’ and 19 positions in the World Bank’s ‘Logistics Performance Index of 2016’.
The ‘Make in India’ initiative, aimed at making India a global hub of manufacturing, design and innovation, has now made our country the 6th largest manufacturing country in the world. It is already a centre for R&D and innovation as well as technology start-ups. The Indian start-up industry has over 20,000 companies, creating over US$ 80 billion of value and employing nearly 325,000 people. A large number of young Indians are employed in the Indian IT industry, which itself is generating revenues of over US$ 170 billion and exports of over US$ 110 billion annually. In 2016, there was 90% increase in number of mobile phone units manufactured in India. Many leading companies in the auto sector have setup various new assembly lines and greenfield units in India.
The Indian Parliament passed the constitutional amendment for Goods and Services Tax (GST) last year, which is one of the most crucial indirect tax reforms in the history of India. GST provides a single tax framework across the country for all goods and services thereby mitigating double taxation and creating one window for market operations. GST is expected to be implemented from July 2017 and is estimated to add about 2% to India’s GDP growth.
Hon’ble Prime Minister took a bold step on 8 November 2016 to root out the menace of black money, corruption, terrorism financing and counterfeit money in the country. India is now marching ahead confidently towards a digital economy with less cash use. In a bid to further push adoption of e-payments in the country, our Prime Minister on 30 December 2016 launched an Aadhaar-based mobile payment application called BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money). BHIM is a biometric and rebranded version of UPI (Unified Payment Interface) and USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data).
In order to create a conducive business climate in the country and to attract investments, the Government has now allowed 100% FDI in civil aviation and food processing sectors while easing norms in defence and pharmaceuticals. It also tightened the local sourcing policy for single-brand retail trading, besides easing conditions in broadcasting carriage services, private security agencies and animal husbandry.
In the defence sector, the policy has been changed to allow 100% FDI by doing away with the condition of access to "state-of-the-art" technology, which has been modified to "modern or for other reasons". In the case of private security agencies, FDI up to 49% is now permitted under the automatic route and up to 74% through the approval route. To promote manufacturing of food items, 100% FDI under the approval route for trading, including through e-commerce in respect of such products manufactured or produced in India has been permitted. In a major move, the Government also allowed 100% FDI through the automatic route in the marketplace format of e-commerce retailing. Since 2015, the States in India, in association with the World Bank, are ranked on the basis of their business policies and procedures on agreed parameters. Andhra Pradesh and Telangana jointly topped the World Bank-compiled ranking of Indian states for bringing in reforms to improve ease of doing business.
For the benefit of foreign investors, an Investor Facilitation Cell has been created to guide and assist the investors. We are making it easier for companies to restructure and exit. The enactment and implementation of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code is a crucial step towards ease of exit in India. New Commercial Courts are being set up to fast track resolution of commercial disputes. Arbitration laws have also been amended to fast track the proceedings.
We have set up the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund in collaboration with foreign funds to finance various development projects in infrastructure sector viz. upgradation of roads, railways, ports and developing of industrial corridors across the country. Beginning this year, the average time for pending IPR application will come down from 5-7 years to 18 months and Trade Mark registration to 1 month (down from 13 months). The time taken to obtain environmental clearances for projects has already been brought down from 600 days to 180 days. The aim is to reduce this to 100 days. We want the world to "Make in India”, “Make for India” and “Make for the World”.
India will soon have over a billion phone connections with an urban teledensity of around 154%. We have 350 million internet users. We are bringing in last mile connectivity to nearly 100,000 villages across the country. The ‘Startup India’ program aims at converging innovation and technology with entrepreneurship for our tech-savvy youth. Through the ‘Skill India’ initiative, we are trying to synergize the skills to the market requirements. By 2020, the average age in India would be 29, thus making India the youngest country in the world, with 64% of population in the working age group.
India is the largest producer, consumer and exporter of spices and spice products. India's fruit production has grown faster than vegetables, making it the second largest fruit producer in the world. India's horticulture output, comprising fruits, vegetables and spices, is estimated to be 283.4 million tonnes in 2015-16. It ranks third in farm and agriculture outputs. Agricultural export constitutes 10% of the country’s exports. India is the largest producer of milk, accounting for 18.5% of the total world production. It also has the largest bovine population. It is the second-largest producer of sugar and the sixth-largest exporter of sugar. India is a leading country in coconut production and productivity in the world.
The Government is committed to create and maintain a robust countrywide network of road infrastructure. To this end, road projects of 10,000 km were awarded in FY 2015-16 while 6,029 km of roads have been constructed in FY 2015 -16. The Ports & Shipping sector has also seen tremendous growth in the last two years. The capacity of Indian ports has increased by 50 million tonnes in the last six months owing to successful completion of ongoing projects.
India has made remarkable progress in the field of Science and Technology. This is evident from building super computer to indigenous space programme; Mars Mission to Chandrayaan; Antarctic mission to oceanographic research. We have always believed in Technology with a human face. After the success of India’s Mars Orbiter Mission ‘Mangalyaan’, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully launched a record 20 satellites in a single mission in June 2016. In September 2016, ISRO launched SCATSAT-1, for weather related studies and seven co-passenger satellites, including three from Algeria, one each from Canada and USA. This was the first mission of PSLV in which payloads were launched into two different orbits.
Our foreign policy is focused on a broad range of global issues that serve the broader interests of humanity. We work with other countries to tackle issues of common concerns, such as international terrorism, climate change, energy security, food security, and the reforms of multilateral institutions, including the UN Security Council. The significance of the Gulf and Middle East region in the ambit of our foreign policy cannot be overemphasized. We are each other’s extended neighbourhood and the security, stability and prosperity of countries in this region is imperative for peace and economic development in India. GCC is one of our largest trading blocs, meeting a large percentage of India’s crude oil and LPG requirements and hosts about 8.5 million Indians. In the fiscal year 2015-16, India-GCC trade was nearly US$ 100 billion and accounted for about 15% of our global trade.
On the bilateral front, India’s relations with Kuwait remain warm, close and friendly. Our relationship extends beyond historical and cultural linkages to encompass political, trade and economic interests. Kuwait is a major and reliable crude oil and LPG supplier to India. India has consistently been among Kuwait’s top trading partners and the total bilateral trade during the fiscal year 2015-16 was US$ 6.2 billion. Indian EPC companies viz. Larsen & Toubro, Dodsal, Shapoorji Pallonji, Punj Lloyd, Essar, Simplex Project Ltd. and Kalpataru Transmission Ltd. are executing various projects in Kuwait in the hydrocarbon and construction sectors.
High-level visits and other exchanges between our two countries have helped in further strengthening and deepening of our bilateral ties. The visits of His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of Kuwait to India in June 2006 followed by the visit of His Highness Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Prime Minister of Kuwait in November 2013 have provided impetus to our growing bilateral relations.
Gen. (Dr.) V.K. Singh, Minister of State for External Affairs visited Kuwait form 6-7 September 2016 and had wide ranging talks on various issues with the Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister & Foreign Minister, Minister of Social Affairs & Labour and Governor of Farwaniya. During the visit, Hon’ble Minister unveiled the life-size bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the Embassy premises on the morning of 7 September 2016. The Mahatma Gandhi statue was made by the renowned Indian sculptors Mr. Ram Vanji Sutar (a Padma Bhushan awardee) and his son Mr. Anil Ram Sutar. This is the first statue of Gandhiji in the whole of Gulf region. Gandhiji’s message of truth, peace, communal harmony and non-violence is even more relevant in today’s world when we see violence and intolerance, radicalization and extremism and the menace of terrorism spreading in many parts of the world.
Significantly, Dr. Bader Hamad Al-Essa, Minister of Education and Higher Education, Kuwait participated in the UNESCO International Conference on the Prevention of Violent Extremism through Education held in New Delhi from 19-20 September 2016.
The 3rd India-Kuwait Foreign Office Consultations were held in New Delhi on 16 November 2016 and the 5th meeting of the India Kuwait Joint Working Group on Labour, Employment and Manpower Development was held in New Delhi on 14-15 December 2016. A 3-member delegation from the Office of Comptroller and Auditor General of India participated in the 8th India-Kuwait Joint Seminar on “Role of Supreme Audit Institutions in Good Governance” held from 7-10 November 2016 in Kuwait and also signed an MOU with the State Audit Bureau of Kuwait. A Protocol amending the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement between India-Kuwait was signed in Kuwait on 15 January 2017. The Protocol amends the types of Kuwaiti taxes in Article 2 of the Agreement and Article 26 on exchanging tax data, both on individuals and corporates. The India-Kuwait DTAA agreement has been into effect since 17 October 2007.
An 11-member Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit-2017 delegation visited Kuwait from 9-10 October 2016 and held meetings in the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Kuwait Chambers of Commerce & Industry (KCCI), Kuwait Petroleum Corporation and Kuwait Ports Authority. An MOU between the Government of Gujarat and Indian Business & Professional Council, Kuwait was signed during the visit. Mr. Mohammad Abdullatif Al-Farhoud, CEO, Petrochemical Industries Company (PIC), Kuwait along with a delegation from KCCI attended the 8th Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit held from 10-13 January 2017 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. Mr. Nizar Al-Adsani, Deputy Chairman and CEO of Kuwait Petroleum Corporation accompanied by two members of KNPC attended the PETROTECH-2016 at New Delhi from 5-7 December 2016.
The Ministry of Commerce & Industry of Kuwait with the participation of 8 Kuwaiti companies organized a Kuwait Pavilion at the India International Trade Fair in New Delhi from 14-27 November 2016. The Embassy organized an “Indian Handicrafts and Handloom Exhibition” and a “Know India” seminar for the travel and tour operators in Kuwait on 23 October 2016. We are working closely with Kuwait to further intensify bilateral engagements at all levels.
It is heartening to know that the Indian community in Kuwait has reached 9.2 lakh persons, according to the data released by General Department of Residency, Kuwait in October 2016. The presence of large dynamic Indian community in Kuwait plays an important role in the strengthening and deepening of bilateral ties. Our community is present in almost all segments of Kuwaiti society and their contribution to the socio-economic development and prosperity of Kuwait are highly appreciated.
It has been Embassy’s constant endeavour to improve the quality of its services given to the community. To protect the interests of Indian workers coming to Kuwait, the Government of India has implemented the e-Migrate system since June 2015. Such initiatives will help in protecting the rights of our workers going abroad and ensure accountability of their recruitment agents in India and their foreign employers. During 2016, the Embassy attested a total of 73,330 employment contracts (50,314 in private sector and 23,016 in domestic sector) for recruitment of Indian workers in Kuwait. The Embassy also issued 96,229 new passports in 2016, as compared to 87,083 in 2015, showing a healthy increase of over 10%. Currently, there are 286 Indian Associations registered with our Embassy in Kuwait.
During 2016, Embassy Auditorium was used for 28 socio-cultural events organized by various Indian Associations. To boost travel of Kuwaiti nationals and expatriates in Kuwait to India, the Embassy has been providing multi-entry business visas (5-year and 1-year), tourism visas (6-month), medical visas (1-year) and visas for study purposes. The Embassy issued 13,880 visas in 2016, vis-a-vis 13,259 visas issued in 2015, which shows an increase of 5% compared to 2015.
The Embassy continuously strives to improve the quality of its services and has taken several measures for the welfare of the Indian community in Kuwait. Our community can reach us 24x7, in cases of emergency. The Embassy has the “Consular Open House” facility where any Indian national can meet a senior consular official without appointment. The Embassy’s “Indian Workers Welfare Center” has been providing the much needed support system to our workers with its help desk, labour complaints desk, free accommodation and free initial legal advice. Addressing the issues concerning our community remains our priority and these would be dealt with utmost sensitivity and care.
On this joyous occasion of our Republic Day, I wish every Indian in Kuwait good health and happiness. I also take this opportunity to convey best wishes from the Indian leaders for the continued good health and well-being of His Highness the Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, His Highness the Crown Prince, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, His Highness the Prime Minister, Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah and the friendly people of the State of Kuwait.
|JAYARAM VALAYAM KUNNATH||Posted on : January 26, 2017 9:18 am|
MY HEARTIEST GREETING TO ALL INDIANS.
I wish every Indian GOOD HEALTH AND LONG PEACEFUL LIFE.